In a recent New York Times op-ed, David Brooks reminds us that many of the original American universities were founded as religious institutions explicitly designed to cultivate students’ spiritual and moral values. Over the course of the 20th century, many institutions moved away from that mission.
But today the pendulum is shifting back in schools that lost this focus.
Brooks points out: “On almost every campus faculty members and administrators are trying to stem the careerist tide and to widen the system’s narrow definition of achievement. Institutes are popping up—with interdisciplinary humanities programs and even meditation centers—designed to cultivate the whole student: the emotional, spiritual, and moral sides and not just the intellectual.”
Educating the whole student offers high-impact benefits to society in many areas, perhaps none more than in business education. Here’s why:
- When businesses are poorly led, we all suffer.
Enron, Worldcom, and the Wall Street institutions responsible for the economic collapse of 2008 offer recent examples. Much of the country has yet to fully recover. And, unfortunately, too many people in power still believe unethical behavior is “just business.” We need more ethical leaders.
- Business is becoming the place where social problems are solved.
Fortunately, more businesses are stepping up to a new definition of sustainable success. Companies like Aetna are setting a new pace. Minimum wage increases are occurring at retailers like Walmart. Netflix is setting a new standard for paid family leave as Starbucks is investing in employee education. But the pace is too slow and we need more enlightened leaders.
- Business collaboration will accelerate much needed progress.
We need new business leaders capable of collaborative capitalism. These Chiefs can ensure that by working together more people are included as the economy grows. Working together, companies led by whole leaders can create a business alliance for the future.
As a graduate of both Bentley University and Columbia University, I have benefitted from curriculum that always included a focus on the whole student. More recently, I’ve had the privilege to work with other leading business schools where such a focus is clear, including U Penn/Wharton, Emory/Goizetta, Penn State/ Smeal, Weatherhead/Case Western, USC/Moore, and FDU/Silberman.
As more of the 517 US members of the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) step up to the challenge of educating the whole student in a secularized yet morally and emotionally integrated manner, they will accelerate progress already made to create a better future for us all.
Just in time.